On March 8, women around the world were flooded with wishes and complementary messages. Facebook walls were filled with messages, poems and images dedicated to women.
And then, things were back to where they were from the following day.
Yes, March 8 belongs to women. But what about the other days? Does it mean that you treat a woman properly on this day?
The woman would read the online wishes, smile to herself, and close the computer.
But what happens once she steps out of her home? The irony is that the Facebook world would seem nice and pretty than reality, at least on that day.
For a woman, life within and outside her home is a struggle which no man could understand.
Some men try to. But mostly it is a struggle only she understands.
A recent study by the United Nations Population Fund said that nine out of ten women who use the public transportation system in Sri Lanka are subject to various forms of harassments and abuses. What is alarming is that only four percent of them report their ordeal to the police.
The others keep their mouth shut because of various reasons including societal constraints.
The UN study deals with the issues women face in the public transport. But is that all? How many of these women have to walk into workplaces where they face similar ordeals? How many of them would have to go back to their homes to face hardships in the hands of their own family members?
Where do these women go to?
One of the important aspects the UN study has dealt with is the lack of bystander intervention in situations of harassments on women and girls.
We have had several studies in the past, and there will be many more in the future. Would these studies alone help change the situation? Who needs to take the initiative?
The woman is blamed on most occasions. “She should not have gone in a bus or train knowing that it would be crowded,” “She should not have worn such an outfit knowing the situation in crowded buses,” are some of the phrases we hear.
While it is acknowledged that such statements could be made out of concern, it does not solve the problem at hand.
Yes, sometimes it is best to avoid a situation where you know that you have a possibility of falling into trouble. But is avoiding the best solution? Avoiding problems will never solve issues. But in this case, not all women would want to face such situations.
But the problem is never solved until a woman can get into a bus or train without the fear of being touched, or even looked in a derogatory manner.
Those who ill-treat women should understand that their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives could also be facing the same predicament in a different bus or train.
You would want them to be treated with dignity regardless of their class, or even their outfit. You wouldn’t want one of your loved ones to face the embarrassment that you are about to cause to someone else’s loved one.
You do not need the UN or any other institution to tell us how we should treat fellow human beings, especially women. We know how to. But sadly, we do not do it.
Even a male who has been a loner all his life has a woman behind him, his mother. He came into being through a woman who bore him for months. Every man has a woman within him. No man is complete without a woman.
Her attire does not give the man the right to touch. She wears them because she is comfortable. She may smile at you but there is a silent cry for help that you wouldn’t hear.
She has her own issues in life, issues that only she knows of. Let her travel peacefully, in buses, and in life.
Remember, a woman is not weak, she is just sensitive and kind-hearted. She smiles, not because she likes you, but maybe because she is nervous.
She may not be strong as you, but she is tougher than any man.
Remember, you are here because of her.
So, next time you see a woman or a girl in a crowded bus, remember that she is one of you.
Keep to the simple rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Published in the Nation on March 11, 2017